Middle East World

Israel Strikes Militants in Syria and Gaza After Clash Over Body at Border

JERUSALEM — A macabre tug of war over the body of a Palestinian militant on the Gaza-Israel border, captured Sunday on video in broad daylight, prompted a barrage of rocket fire from Gaza met by retaliatory Israeli airstrikes late Sunday.

Israel’s use of heavy machinery to retrieve a militant’s body earlier in the day drew harsh criticism even within the country. But Israel’s hawkish defense minister, Naftali Bennett, defended the army’s seizure of the body as appropriate, suggesting it could be used as a bargaining chip to recover the remains of two Israeli soldiers who have been held in Gaza since 2014.

The day of tensions began around 6:30 a.m. when, Israel said, its soldiers spotted two militants from the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group placing an explosive near the border east of Khan Younis, in southern Gaza. Israel later released a surveillance video that it said showed the two men approaching the fence, and a photo of the explosive.

Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s armed wing has repeatedly tried to provoke violence between Israel and Gaza in recent months. But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has tried mightily to maintain quiet before elections set for March 2.

According to a rival lawmaker, Avigdor Liberman, Mr. Netanyahu even sent the chief of the Mossad, the Israeli spy agency, and a top general to Qatar to implore Qatari leaders to continue cash infusions to Hamas, the militant group that governs Gaza, to help keep the peace.

In the clash at the Gaza-Israel border early Sunday, Israeli forces fired an antitank weapon at the two militants. One was killed, the other wounded, Gaza officials said. Palestinian Islamic Jihad identified the dead man as Muhammad al-Naem, 27, a member of its military wing.

An Israeli military spokesman said the two militants had been on Israeli soil, despite the fact that they were on the Gaza side of the Israeli security barrier. The barrier itself lies slightly inside Palestinian territory. The militants were making at least their third attempt to plant explosives at the fence, the military said.

Soldiers had to be sure the dead man had not been wearing a suicide vest or carrying other explosives, the spokesman said, so Israel sent in heavy machinery to collect the man’s body.

But a crowd of Palestinian onlookers rushed forward to try to recover it, and rather than retreat, the front-end loader kept at its task. Israeli soldiers shot at the Palestinians, wounding at least one.

While other Palestinians carried off the injured man, the Israeli machine repeatedly scraped at the earth, trying to catch the dead man’s body in the teeth of its scoop. When it had done so and turned back toward Israel, its retreat covered by a tank, the body could be seen dangling.

The images prompted Palestinian Islamic Jihad to vow revenge, and just after 5:30 p.m., the first of several rocket barrages was fired into Israeli territory. Israel waited till after 10 p.m. before retaliating with airstrikes and quickly said it had hit a rocket-launching team.

The Israeli military said it had targeted Palestinian Islamic Jihad with airstrikes in Syria and the Gaza Strip.

The scene at the border drew harsh criticism even within Israel. Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, sent a letter to the Israeli chief military advocate general demanding a criminal investigation. It called the rough handling of the body a war crime and a “blatant” violation of international criminal law, human rights and humanitarian law.

Yariv Oppenheimer, a former director of the Israeli advocacy group Peace Now, called it “shameful and shocking,” adding, “All the atrocities and crimes we do will be in vain, boomerang.”

And Ofer Cassif, a Jewish lawmaker from the predominantly Arab Joint List, called the “abduction” of the body “an act of vampirism and of nauseating blood thirst.”

“This is what Netanyahu and Bennett have to offer: siege, killing and the abduction of bodies,” he wrote on Twitter. “We must put an end to their death festivities.’‘

Mr. Bennett, a right-wing lawmaker who was named defense minister in November, responded on Twitter that he was “tired of the hypocritical criticism of the left against the ‘inhumanity’ of using the bulldozer to bring us the body of a terrorist who tried to murder (!) Israelis.”

Rather, he said, it was the liberals who were inhumane.

“Hamas holds the bodies of Hadar and Oron,” he wrote referring to the bodies of the two Israeli soldiers, Lt. Hadar Goldin and Sgt. Oron Shaul, that Hamas has been holding. “I back up the army that killed the terrorists and collected the body. That is how it should be done. Against terrorists we will act with force.”

But Elior Levy, an Israeli reporter who covers Palestinian affairs, assailed what he called Mr. Bennett’s “glorification of grabbing a tattered body of a wretched terrorist.” Pointing to the rockets, he added: “What do you think, Minister of Defense? Was it worth it?”

Mr. Bennett declared on Nov. 27 that Israel would no longer release the bodies of slain assailants no matter which group they belonged to. Until that point, Israel had routinely withheld the remains only of slain Hamas militants because Hamas is holding the bodies of the two Israelis.

Hamas is also believed to be holding two Israeli citizens, Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed. Both went into Gaza as civilians of their own accord and have been held there incommunicado for years.

The border episode on Sunday came just two days after another scene involving an Israeli bulldozer elicited outrage.

On Friday, an Israeli bulldozer trying to suppress protests in Kafr Qaddum, west of the West Bank city of Nablus, shoved heavy slabs of stone at high speed down a crowded street, slamming one into a Palestinian ambulance and injuring at least one person.

Israel said the bulldozer had been clearing the stones from a roadblock set by protesters.

Iyad Abuheweila contributed reporting from Gaza City, and Isabel Kershner from Jerusalem.

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Asia Pacific World

In Hong Kong, the Coronavirus Strikes a Wounded City

HONG KONG — Hong Kong has suffered through months of political protests. Its economy is shrinking. Mistrust divides its people from its leaders. Locals and expatriates alike already talk openly about leaving.

Now the coronavirus is dealing the Asian financial capital another devastating blow. Airlines are cutting service, isolating an international city from the rest of the world. Schools are closed. Panicked residents are hoarding rice, face masks and — in the latest run — toilet paper.

In the air runs a new emotion for a city where the glimmering skyline once seemed to promise riches and opportunity: fear.

“We don’t know when it will end or how much worse it will get,” said Amber Suen, a flight attendant with Cathay Pacific, the beleaguered Hong Kong airline that on Wednesday asked its 27,000 employees to take three-week unpaid furloughs to save money.

Ms. Suen endured Hong Kong’s earlier problems, like the outbreak 17 years ago of SARS, which killed almost 300 people and briefly knocked the territory’s economy off track. This time feels different, she said, as Hong Kong endures political, economic and social crises all at once.

“During SARS,” she said, “people were still working together.”

The new coronavirus, which has killed hundreds and sickened thousands in mainland China, has been much less prevalent in Hong Kong. One person has died and at least 26 have been infected, mostly while traveling in the mainland. Its hospitals are respected around the world, and its grocery stores remain largely well stocked.

The world is not drawing a distinction, however, in part because the city has tightened but not fully closed the border with the mainland. As a result, people in this global city are feeling increasingly cut off.

The multinational companies that helped make this city global are restricting travel there. Some are advising or requiring returning employees to quarantine themselves. And getting to Hong Kong is becoming increasingly difficult: Virgin Australia on Thursday joined United Airlines and American Airlines in cutting service.

Italy has suspended flights from Hong Kong, while the Philippines and Taiwan are requiring arrivals to go into quarantine. Even the city’s Philippine domestic workers, a mostly female group of 200,000 who toil inside Hong Kong’s tiny apartments to support their families back home, were told this week that they would need to undergo a 14-day quarantine if they returned to the Philippines.

This week the organizers of Art Basel Hong Kong, a major event in the arts world, said they would cancel the event.

  • Updated Feb. 5, 2020

    • Where has the virus spread?
      You can track its movement with this map.
    • How is the United States being affected?
      There have been at least a dozen cases. American citizens and permanent residents who fly to the United States from China are now subject to a two-week quarantine.
    • What if I’m traveling?
      Several countries, including the United States, have discouraged travel to China, and several airlines have canceled flights. Many travelers have been left in limbo while looking to change or cancel bookings.
    • How do I keep myself and others safe?
      Washing your hands is the most important thing you can do.

While the global reaction may be extreme, the threat can feel real in such a densely populated city, where apartments and offices are stacked on top of each other, sometimes 40 stories or more.

On Wednesday, managers of a Hong Kong skyscraper called Kowloon Commerce Center said someone who worked there had been diagnosed with the coronavirus. The building’s other tenants include Bank of America, the Swiss bank UBS, the phone giant China Mobile and international shipping companies.

The sudden isolation only adds to the economic pain. For months, antigovernment protesters have filled the streets to demand that the pro-Beijing government give them greater say in how the city is run and to protest the Chinese government’s growing sway. Violence and tear gas already scared away many mainland tourists and business visitors.

Jewelers, luxury retailers and cosmetics shops that catered to mainland tourists are closing outlets. Restaurants have closed and hotel rooms are vacant. Unsurprisingly, unemployment is on the rise.

“This is a postprotest, frying-pan-into-the-fire situation for a lot of Hong Kong retailers,” said Robert Cooper, founder of Enoteca, a restaurant catering to the business community.

Most of his tables are empty. Mr. Cooper said he was running a skeleton staff after firing 30 percent of his chefs and waiters. In January, he was forced to shut down Iberico & Co., another restaurant, after months of empty tables and lost revenue.

“Months of protests and the fear of getting caught in tear gas has had an impact on business,” said Mr. Cooper, who got his start in Hong Kong as a waiter 26 years ago. “Now the virus bites into our other businesses.”

Other factors make Hong Kong more vulnerable than it was during SARS 17 years ago. China back then was still developing and growing by double digits, and it needed Hong Kong’s money and expertise. Today, China’s growth has matured, and many companies no longer use Hong Kong as a gateway into the world’s No. 2 economy.

More fundamentally, many Hong Kong people no longer have faith in their government to make the right decisions.

“We’ve been double-hit by social unrest and a government that is just disappointing,” said Paul Yip, a professor and director at Hong Kong University. “They don’t know how to deal with unrest, and they don’t know how to handle the virus.”

Citizens had already grown nervous about their government. Hong Kong is a semiautonomous Chinese region, with an independent legal system and guaranteed individual rights, but its top leadership is selected by a process controlled by Beijing.

Many in Hong Kong fear the growing power of the mainland Chinese government in the city’s affairs, especially after the high-profile disappearances of people wanted or disliked by Beijing with little reaction from city officials. The tensions boiled over late last spring, when Hong Kong’s leaders tried to pass legislation that would allow extradition of criminal suspects to mainland China, where the justice system is controlled by the Communist Party.

City leaders backed down, but by then, clashes between demonstrators and the police had become increasingly violent. Hong Kong’s population became frustrated as city officials dismissed evidence of excessive police violence. Angry voters dealt their leaders a sharp rebuke in November, when pro-democracy candidates swept elections for lower-level offices.

Now that mistrust of the government is spilling over into anger about the response to the outbreak.

About 7,000 medical workers have gone on strike, demanding that Hong Kong fully close the border with the mainland. The union, the Hospital Authority Employees Alliance, which was formed during the protest, said the striking members represented about 10 percent of public hospital employees. Workers on Friday voted to end the strike.

Small explosions have been set off in some places, the latest on Tuesday in a public restroom near a public housing complex. Online, people claiming responsibility have demanded a closure of the border.

Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s top government official, has resisted calls to completely close the border with the mainland. Instead, she has introduced a series of steps that have cut arrivals. Her critics say those moves are not enough.

Even Hong Kong’s pro-government leaders have signaled dissatisfaction with Mrs. Lam as the economy continues to reel.

Jasper Tsang, a founder of the city’s largest pro-establishment party and former president of the legislature, said the city had little of the solidarity shown during SARS, when he was a member of the chief executive’s cabinet.

“The government slogan is, ‘Let us unite and fight the virus,’” he said. “But the unity doesn’t seem to be there.”

Tommy Cheung, a member of Hong Kong’s legislative council representing the catering industry, said, “Right now, I don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

“Where is the help coming from?” he asked. “Where is the end of the virus and the end of the riots?”

On Hong Kong’s streets, where nearly everybody but smokers and expatriates were wearing face masks, the mistrust of the government took the form of rumors and panic buying. Rice and vegetables disappear quickly, though shelves get restocked quickly and supermarket chains say they have adequate supplies.

After rumors circulated that China had forced toilet paper manufacturers to make face masks, toilet paper this week disappeared from supermarket shelves. Local shoppers snatched them as they were delivered to shelves, and filled their carts with big packages of rolls.

Dairy Farm Group, which runs the Wellcome supermarket chain, said the rumors were false and that it was “working closely with our suppliers to provide sufficient and diversified choices of products to our customers.”

As city leaders offered assurances, residents rushed to buy face masks. Early morning lines in front of pharmacies have become a familiar sight, as have signs declaring that supplies are out. On Thursday, a group of Hong Kong physicians told reporters that their clinics might have to close some days if they do not have enough.

“My patients ask ‘Doctor, can I get 10 masks from you?’” Douglas Chan, a general practitioner, said. “I tell them, ‘Sorry, I don’t have enough either.’”

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Alan Harris death: Star Wars actor, who appeared in Empire Strikes Back, dies aged 81

Star Wars actor Alan Harris has died, aged 81.

Harris appeared in all three films of George Lucas’ original trilogy, but was best known for playing the reptilian bounty hunter Bossk in 1980 sequel The Empire Strikes Back.

In the film, Bossk is sent to capture the Millennium Falcon by Darth Vader.

Harris – whose agent described him as “one of life’s true gentlemen” – also played a stormtrooper in A New Hope (1977) and Return of the Jedi (1983). 

Alliance Agents said the actor had been diagnosed with lung cancer in 2018.

“During his 30-year career, he worked as a background artist and stand in for dozens of productions including Flash Gordon, Superman, Space 1999, UFO, Doctor Who and The Protectors,” its statement read.

“Years after making the Star Wars films, Alan began a new career attending science fiction conventions and comic-cons all over the world.”

His agency said that Harris “loved meeting his fans, signing autographs for them and telling stories of his time in the film business”.

Boba Fett actor Jeremy Bulloch paid tribute to the actor, writing: “We were so sorry to hear about Alan Harris – he was one of the nicest guys we have met – he was so modest and so very good with all the fans – he will be greatly missed.”  

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Middle East World

U.S. Strikes at Leader of Qaeda in Yemen

The United States has carried out an airstrike against the leader of Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen after months of tracking him by using aerial surveillance and other intelligence, according to three current or former American officials.

The officials expressed confidence that the Qaeda leader, Qassim al-Rimi, was killed in a January airstrike in Yemen but were awaiting confirmation before making a public announcement.

If confirmed, his death could represent a significant blow to the Qaeda affiliate, which remains one of the most potent branches of the terrorist group. The Yemen branch, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, has tried to attack the United States and Europe and is thought to still want to.

The group’s ability to orchestrate or attack targets in the West has atrophied in recent years, as American airstrikes have targeted their bomb-makers and English-language propagandists. But the group, American officials have previously said, remains a dangerous one.

Qaeda and Islamic State leaders have been targeted in the past by American military or C.I.A. drone strikes, only for United States officials to learn later that the militants had survived. That has made American officials more cautious about declaring these kind of strikes successful.

Military officials said they were not aware of any strikes. The C.I.A. and the National Security Council declined to comment.

The C.I.A. learned of Mr. al-Rimi’s location from an informer in Yemen in November, according to a United States official who was briefed on the strike. That information allowed the government to begin tracking him through surveillance drones.

Local news reports in Yemen said that a drone strike this month killed two militant suspects in the area of Wadi Abedah in central Yemen. The reports did not identify the people killed in the strike.

Mr. al-Rimi, 41, is among the few Qaeda leaders whose terrorist pedigree traces to the era before the Sept. 11 attacks.

A veteran of Qaeda’s training camps in Afghanistan, Mr. al-Rimi later returned to his native Yemen, where he was sentenced to five years in prison for plotting to kill the American ambassador there. He broke out of jail a year later, and quickly rose through the ranks of the Qaeda affiliate.

Credit…Rewards for Justice

The State Department offered a $5 million bounty for information leading to Mr. al-Rimi’s capture, and later doubled the reward to $10 million, as he was linked to numerous plots against American interests.

According to the State Department, he is believed to have played a role in the 2008 attack on the American Embassy in Sana, which killed 10 guards and four civilians, as well as the 2009 plot by the Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to take down a Detroit-bound flight with explosives concealed in his underwear.

In the first major military operation authorized by President Trump, Chief Petty Officer William (Ryan) Owens, a member of the Navy’s SEAL Team 6, was killed in Yemen in 2017 trying to kill or capture Mr. al-Rimi.

“He was an Al Qaeda veteran whose career started in the camps in pre-9/11 Afghanistan,” said Thomas Joscelyn, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington. “After he was busted out of prison, he was part of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s relaunch management team, becoming their military commander.”

Mr. Joscelyn said that Mr. al-Rimi was one of just four Qaeda officials who appeared in a video announcing the group’s relaunch in 2009.

Analysts said that numerous Qaeda leaders have been killed in similar strikes. “These strikes are necessary to degrade the group, but not sufficient to destroy it,” Mr. Joscelyn said.

The affiliate in Yemen was for a time considered the most capable of striking American interests, but it hasn’t pursued a plot targeting the United States in years.

Bruce Riedel, a 30-year veteran former C.I.A. officer, said he had heard about the strike but added that it was unclear whether Mr. al-Rimi had been killed.

“Al-Rimi is an important target, probably more dangerous to Yemen and Saudi Arabia than for Americans given the group’s diminished capabilities during the Yemen war,” he said.

The strike against Mr. al-Rimi came at roughly the same time the American military unsuccessfully tried to kill a senior Iranian military official in Yemen, Abdul Reza Shahlai. The attempted strike against Mr. Shahlai came on the same day an American drone killed Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, Iran’s most powerful commander.

Saeed al-Batati and Mark Mazzetti contributed reporting.

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Trezeguet strikes at the death as Aston Villa beat Leicester to reach Carabao Cup final

Aston Villa reached their first league cup final for a decade with a dramatic 2-1 victory over Leicester in the second leg of their semi-final at Villa Park.

Trezeguet grabbed Villa’s stoppage-time winner to send the five-time victors to Wembley after Kelechi Iheanacho’s second-half strike had cancelled out Matt Targett’s 12th-minute opener to give Villa a 3-2 triumph on aggregate.

Villa, though, owe a huge debt of gratitude to goalkeeper Orjan Nyland, who produced three outstanding first-half saves, with boss Dean Smith opting to keep faith with the Norwegian who had served him well in the first leg at the King Power Stadium, at the expense of recent signing Pepe Reina.

The opening 10 minutes belonged to Leicester, and Nyland in particular.

An early chest block from an acute angle to deny Iheanacho, starting with leading scorer Jamie Vardy on the bench after sustaining a glute injury in last Wednesday’s 4-1 hammering of West Ham, was routine, but what followed was sublime.

Trezeguet celebrates his goal at the death (PA)

A fifth-minute lay-off from Iheanacho for James Maddison resulted in a low right-footed curler that was bound for the bottom corner, only for Nyland to tip the ball beyond his left-hand post.

After Maddison had then drilled a first-time drive from just outside the area inches past the same section of the goal frame two minutes later, the midfielder was again brilliantly thwarted by a full-stretch Nyland’s fingertips in the ninth minute.

What followed in the 12th from Villa was a good old-fashioned counter-punch as breaking from deep, Douglas Luiz fed Jack Grealish down the left, and after a surge into the box, the Villa skipper in turn played in the overlapping Targett.

In front of the Holte End, the defender then struck a sweet first-time drive from an acute angle beyond Kasper Schmeichel for only his second goal since his £15.6million move from Southampton in the summer.

Villa were inches away from making it 2-0 in the 15th minute, with Anwar El Ghazi curling a 25-yard free-kick fractionally over the bar after Maddison had brought down Grealish.

The goal naturally changed the momentum of the game, settling Villa, although Nyland’s best in the first half was yet to come.

Letting fly from 20 yards, Youri Tielemans’ curling strike was destined for the top corner, yet with a clawing right hand, Nyland managed to push the ball on to the bar, with a replay drawing gasps and applause from the home fans.

Shortly after, though, City should have been awarded a penalty, but despite a VAR check, the officials at Stockley Park failed to spot Marvelous Nakamba’s block to another effort from Maddison.

After Grealish had fired wide from 12 yards in the 54th minute, and Vardy was thrown on by Rodgers two minutes later to find the elusive equaliser, Villa should have put the tie beyond City’s reach just after the hour.

But despite a piercing delivery to the edge of the six-yard box from Grealish, new £8.5million signing Mbwana Samatta failed to get the necessary touch that would have made him an instant hero on his debut.

It proved costly as 18 minutes from time Iheanacho, who had scored City’s equaliser in the first leg, repeated the trick by arriving at the far post on to Harvey Barnes’ threaded ball through the six-yard box to the far post for his sixth goal in five games against Villa.

After Foxes centre-back Jonny Evans had spurned a headed chance four minutes from time, Villa then grabbed the winner in added time as two subs combined, with Ahmed Elmohamady’s deep ball to the far post from the right wing met by the arriving Trezeguet to plant his shot back across Schmeichel.

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Shrewsbury vs Liverpool result: Jason Cummings strikes twice to earn FA Cup replay at Anfield

 Premier League leaders Liverpool were given a huge scare by third-tier Shrewsbury Town as they squandered a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 away in a pulsating FA Cup fourth round tie on Sunday.

A much-changed Liverpool appeared to be cruising into the fifth round for the first time since Jurgen Klopp took over in 2015, but Shrewsbury substitute Jason Cummins had the compact New Meadow stadium rocking with a memorable brace.

First he coolly tucked away a 65th-minute penalty and then he outpaced Liverpool’s nervy back four to beat Adrian with a cool right-foot finish from the edge of the area.

Liverpool, who have been untouchable in the Premier League this season making a first title for 30 years almost inevitable, took the lead through teenager Curtis Jones after 15 minutes.

The seven-time Cup winners doubled their lead 28 seconds after half-time when Shrewsbury’s Donald Love scored an own goal.

But European and world club champion Liverpool lost concentration and were punished as Shrewsbury roared back to set up a thrilling climax and earn a replay at Anfield. 


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Shrewsbury vs Liverpool result: Jason Cummings strikes twice to earn FA Cup replay at Anfield

 Premier League leaders Liverpool were given a huge scare by third-tier Shrewsbury Town as they squandered a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 away in a pulsating FA Cup fourth round tie on Sunday.

A much-changed Liverpool appeared to be cruising into the fifth round for the first time since Jurgen Klopp took over in 2015, but Shrewsbury substitute Jason Cummins had the compact New Meadow stadium rocking with a memorable brace.

First he coolly tucked away a 65th-minute penalty and then he outpaced Liverpool’s nervy back four to beat Adrian with a cool right-foot finish from the edge of the area.

Liverpool, who have been untouchable in the Premier League this season making a first title for 30 years almost inevitable, took the lead through teenager Curtis Jones after 15 minutes.

The seven-time Cup winners doubled their lead 28 seconds after half-time when Shrewsbury’s Donald Love scored an own goal.

But European and world club champion Liverpool lost concentration and were punished as Shrewsbury roared back to set up a thrilling climax and earn a replay at Anfield. 


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Europe World

Earthquake Strikes Eastern Turkey, Killing 14

ISTANBUL — An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.7 shook eastern Turkey on Friday night, killing at least 14 people, injuring hundreds and causing tremors in three neighboring countries, the authorities said.

The earthquake struck just before 9 p.m. in eastern Elazig province, Suleyman Soylu, Turkey’s interior minister, told reporters. At least 225 people were injured in Elazig and another 45 people were hurt in the nearby province of Malatya, southwest of the epicenter, provincial officials said.

Mr. Soylu told NTV television that rescue workers were trying to reach survivors after a four-story building collapsed in the town of Maden. One person was rescued from the rubble there, he said. Four or five buildings collapsed in Sivrice, where two people were hurt, he said.

“We are hoping we will not have more casualties,” Mr. Soylu said, according to the Anadolu news agency.

The defense minister, Hulusi Akar, told reporters that there were no reports of casualties in Sivrice, a town of about 4,000 people near the site of the earthquake, according to The Associated Press, but he said the quake may have caused deaths or injuries in rural areas outside the town. Troops were on standby to help, he said.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake registered a preliminary magnitude of 6.7 and was also felt in Syria, Georgia and Armenia.

Village chiefs, or mukhtars, in the area of Turkey affected by the earthquake reported extensive damage in interviews with news media and said people could be left homeless. Temperatures in the region were expected to drop to about 10 degrees overnight, according to the Turkish State Meteorological Service.

In March 2010, an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.0 struck 61 miles from the town of Elazig, killing 51 people. One village was largely destroyed and four others were heavily damaged. A second quake with a 5.6 magnitude subsequently hit the same area, among scores of aftershocks.

In western Turkey in 1999, a 7.4 magnitude earthquake that struck the city of Izmit killed more than 17,000 people.

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Iran plane crash: Video shows moment missile strikes Ukraine aircraft

A video appears to capture the moment a missile struck a Ukrainian passenger plane near Tehran before it crashed, killing all 173 people on board minutes after it took off.

The footage, obtained by the New York Times, shows a bright light speeding into the sky and exploding.

The plane itself did not explode immediately but was on fire as it attempted to fly back towards the airport, before crashing.

A witness who spoke to The Independent described seeing the moment the airliner was struck by an apparent missile and was engulfed in flames.

“I saw a light in the sky hit something like a plane, after that whatever it hit began burning and to move across the sky. Then it kept moving for may be a minute or two burning through the sky,” said, speaking anonymously for security reasons.

The witness, who lives in Parand, a city close to Tehran International Airport, added: “I was so scared, I thought it was war, I thought America had attacked. I only found out about the plane crash later and put it all together.”

He said he had been shaken awake at 6.15am local time by a loud explosion, which he now believes was the outgoing missile. He “rushed to the window” and saw what he believes was the plane being hit.

Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau, whose country lost 63 citizens in the crash, said intelligence reports confirmed that the plane was struck by an Iranian surface-to-air missile. Other reports have said that UK and US officials believe Iran may have accidentally shot down the plane.

The Boeing 737‘s crew did not radio for help before it crashed just moments after taking off from Imam Khomeini International Airport in Tehran.

More video footage following the crash shows smouldering remains of the aircraft scattered outside Tehran.

Among the victims aboard Ukraine International Airlines’ Flight PS752 were four Britons, 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians and 11 Ukrainians. The plane’s destination was Kiev.

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Americas World

Brazil’s Top Court Strikes Down Ban on Netflix Film Portraying Jesus as Gay

RIO DE JANEIRO — The Supreme Court on Thursday allowed Netflix to continue showing a short film depicting Jesus as a gay man, reversing a lower court’s ruling that the film be taken down because it did “irreparable damage” to the nation’s Christians.

The film, a satire called The First Temptation of Christ, ignited controversy among conservative politicians and clergy when it was released in December. The uproar escalated when, on Christmas Eve, the production company responsible for the film was the target of a firebomb attack.

This week’s rulings are yet another flash point in the country’s culture wars, which have grown increasingly bitter since the election of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro in 2018.

In striking down the lower court’s ban, the president of Brazil’s Supreme Court ruled Thursday that freedom of expression was a fundamental right in a democracy.

“A piece of satire is not going to undermine the values of Christian faith, which has been around for more than 2,000 years,” the court’s president, Justice José Antonio Dias Toffoli, wrote.

Netflix had appealed the lower court ruling, saying that it would fight for artistic expression, “which goes to the heart of great storytelling.”

On Tuesday, a judge in Rio de Janeiro had banned the film in response to a lawsuit filed by Centro Dom Bosco, a Brazilian Christian organization, which has denounced the film as blasphemous.

The judge, Benedicto Abicair, concluded that keeping the film online was “more likely to cause grave and irreparable damage” than removing it from the public domain. He said the ruling would benefit Brazil’s “majority Christian” society.

Brazil, home to more Catholics than any other country in the world, also has a fast-growing conservative evangelical population that has gained more political clout in recent years. Many had celebrated the lower court’s ban.

Damares Alves, an evangelical pastor who serves as minister for Human Rights, Families and Women, lauded the lower court for a “beautiful and timely decision!”

But David Miranda, an openly gay federal lawmaker, called the decision an “attack on democracy” in the Bolsonaro era. “We can’t forget that this attack is rooted in homophobia,” he said in a text message. “We’ll resist.”

On Christmas Eve, masked assailants lobbed Molotov cocktails at Porta dos Fundos, the company that produced the film. No one was injured, and the firebombs did little damage. But a video posted online took credit for the attack and made clear that it was an effort to silence the filmmakers.

Law enforcement officials have identified one of the men suspected of being involved in the firebombing.

The suspect, Eduardo Fauzi, a 41-year-old resident of Rio de Janeiro, flew to Moscow shortly after the attack. In an interview with Época magazine, Mr. Fauzi said that while the attack was certainly a crime, he felt it was “perfectly moral” since the justice system did not stand in the way of the film’s dissemination, which he called a “monstrous crime.”

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